Tag Archives: Labor Day Menu

Lime Rickey: A Lemonade Alternative

I love fresh lemonade as much as the next person. But, by this time of summer it’s a little “been there, done that.” So, a lime rickey is an easy and unexpected alternative for your guests.

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To make limeade or lemonade, the key is to balance the sour — lime or lemon — with the sweet of sugar, in this case simple syrup — diluted with water or, in this case, seltzer. It is seltzer that transforms an “ade” to a “rickey.’ You need enough sweet and sour for flavor and enough water to lighten without over-diluting the sweet-sour flavor.  The basic mix is one part juice, one part simple syrup and two parts water or seltzer over ice. If your mixture is not chilled, more ice will melt and further dilute your beverage so you could back off the water or seltzer if your mix is not pre-chilled.

Do ahead You can make the “base” of fresh lime juice and simple syrup up to a week in advance. Finish with ice, seltzer and a wedge of lime.

1 quart fresh lime juice, chilled (See Note)
2 3/4 cup sugar
2 3/4 cup water
2 quarts seltzer (See Note)
16 lime wedges
16 sprigs mint, optional

1. Make simple syrup: In a small pot over moderate heat combine sugar and water. Heat until sugar is fully melted into water. Chill.
2. In a pitcher, combine fresh lime juice, simple syrup. Chill.
3. To serve, fill glasses with ice. Add equal parts of lime-syrup mix and seltzer. Stir. Pour into glass leaving space for seltzer. Top with seltzer and stir. Garnish with lime wedge and optional mint sprig. If you would like your rickey a touch more sour, be sure to squeeze your lime wedge and/or add a second lime wedge.

Serves 12-16

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To make a proper lime wedge, trim each end of a lime.

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Cut lime in half and cut each half into three or four wedges.

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Trim the white membrane from each wedge. The knife blade is pointing to the white membrane.

Note: Fresh lime juice.
There are few substitutes for fresh lime juice. My local Whole Foods carries a high quality “fresh” lime juice in a bottle that is fine. Make sure any bottled product you buy is just fresh juice and lightly processed. Otherwise, buy limes and squeeze you own juice.

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Note: Seltzer
Not all sparkling water is created equal. There’s a long note about sparkling water in At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. Cheap seltzer is pretty harsh on its own, but you need the “muscle” of cheap seltzer to add the spritz required for a good rickey.

Tomorrow: One Relaxed Hour

We are about four weeks from having books in hand and starting to ship. If you buy your book(s) now, you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Steve

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Yellow & Green Bean Salad Recipe

This very simple salad is both colorful and has a distinctive flavor that results from being dressed in lime juice and a touch of sesame oil. With this salad I cut beans into half-inch lengths — an unexpected look for what is typically a salad of long beans — and much more fork friendly.

Do ahead Beans may be cooked up to a day ahead but best not to dress salad until ready to serve.

1/2 pound yellow beans
1/2 pound green beans
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, about half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional

1. Snap stem end of yellow and green beans. Line up beans and cut into 1/2-inch lengths.
2. Bring a generous amount of generously salted water to a full boil. Add beans and return to boil. How long to cook depends on tenderness of beans. Young and tender beans will cook in 4 to 5 minutes with more mature beans taking longer. The best thing to do is taste as you cook until beans are tender, but still al dente. Once beans are cooked to your liking, drain and immediately run under cold water to stop cooking and set color.
3. In a bowl, combine beans and lime juice and toss. Add olive oil, toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper. Top with optional toasted sesame seeds.

Yield 1 pound of mixed beans will serve 4 – 6, depending on what else you are serving.
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To toast optional sesame seeds
While you can toast seeds and nuts in the oven, I find the quickest way to do a small batch is in a small fry pan over medium heat.
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Place seeds in cold fry pan over moderate heat. Shake occasionally. Once seeds begin to tan, shake frequently until they reach a deep tan. Be careful at the end to not let seeds go to far.

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Turn seeds out on to a plate to stop cooking.

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Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers Recipe

I love mixing mildly hot peppers into a mix to provide an occasional surprise in the mouth.  My apartment does not have an outdoor grill so I do my grilling in a grill pan. Works just fine, but this goes much more quickly on a grill with generous cooking surface. I have to do mine in several batches.

Do Ahead I would happily make this two days before serving. Store, well-covered in refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature and re-toss before serving.

2 pounds assorted sweet and mildly hot peppers – 2-3 times sweet than hot
2 pounds assorted small eggplant
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Combine garlic and olive oil in large bowl. Mix well.
2. For eggplant, remove stem end and discard. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Down length of each half, cut deep slits into flesh about 1/2-inch apart taking care not to cut all the way through. These slits allow oil to penetrate without drenching eggplant in oil, helps steam escape during grilling and generally facilitates cooking.
3. For the peppers, remove the stem and top and discard. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove all seeds and trim away membrane. Take care in handling hot peppers not to touch soft membranes like your lips and eyes or you will cause burning. Wash hands well after handling hot peppers.
4. Prepare eggplant for grilling. You can’t just toss eggplant into garlic oil. Eggplant acts as a sponge and that’s not good. One eggplant could absorb most of this oil. Instead, place your fingers into garlic and oil mixture. Generously rub and coat each eggplant. Continue with all eggplant. Eggplant should have modest patina of oil.
5. Prepare peppers for grilling. Unlike eggplant, peppers do not absorb oil. Combine what’s left of garlic oil with peppers and toss well.
6. Preheat grill to moderate.
7. To grill peppers, start peppers skin side down. Cook until scorch marks are formed — three to five minutes. Turn peppers and continue cooking until peppers become very limp. Transfer to bowl and stack. Stacked peppers will continue to cook from their own internal heat and you want this to happen. Allow peppers to cool.
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8. To grill eggplant, start flesh side down and cook until well scorched and marked — about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn so skin side is down. Continue cooking. You will see moisture within slits bubble and steam and eggplant will swell as internal moisture turns to steam. Oil will also seep into eggplant through slits. Skin protects eggplant through this process. Continue cooking until eggplant are limp and very pliable. Undercooked eggplant is not a good thing. Set aside to cool.

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Here I use my Grill Press to facilitate “marking” by putting downward pressure on eggplant. A Grill Press is a recommended but not essential list of kitchen equipment. You will get my full recommendations in our upcoming book.

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Eggplant are well marked and spend a while “on their backs” as they cook fully through. Look for the sizzling in the slits as a sign that heat has deeply penetrated eggplant.

9. Cutting peppers and eggplant. There are two approaches to this – big pieces or more fork-friendly pieces. If you are using small eggplant, these look better as they are without cutting them up. Depending on size of peppers, you may have to cut some into somewhat smaller peppers. This approach assumes your guests have a knife and a stable place to cut the peppers and eggplant on their plate. Neither are easy to cut with a fork as each has a skin. Alternatively, cut peppers into generous, but not too long strips. Cut eggplant into large chunks, but not so large that your guest could not fit it into their mouth.
IMG_4742

Eggplant cut into manageable pieces.

10. Toss together eggplant and peppers in bowl. Add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and toss again. In addition to flavoring the dish, the acid from lemon juice or pepper serves to cut the richness of oil. To serve, spread onto low platter taking care to have a nice mix of peppers running throughout.

IMG_4744

Looks pretty good!

Yield A pound of eggplant and a half pound of peppers will serve 6-8 depending on what else is on the menu.

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Eggplant & Peppers Recipe + Yellow & Green Beans Recipe

Book Update
Yesterday, we received the “soft proofs” of At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking and Entertaining. Looking great. We are now less than a month from having books in hand and ready to ship. If you are enjoying these posts, you will love the book — sort of these posts on steriods multiplied by 512 pages! If you buy the book now you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Two More Do Ahead Labor Day Recipes
Ah, Labor Day Weekend! The third and last of summer’s holidays. Memorial Day weekend, summer’s just begun and produce stands and stalls just tease us. Come July 4th, summer’s in full swing — except maybe for corn. But by Labor Day, market baskets are brimming with peppers, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, herbs and, of course, corn.

Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers
My Maple Acres farm stand always has an array of small multi-hued and unusual eggplant and a rainbow of sweet and hot peppers. Grilled together these make for the ideal Labor Day do ahead dish — whether a part of your backyard menu or your contribution to someone else’s party.

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I love mixing mildly hot peppers into a mix to provide an occasional surprise in the mouth. Some recipes are more idea and technique with some seasoning than they are a careful step-by-step procedure and this is one. Pay attention to the tips and hints and you can then set this actual recipe aside and just do it. My apartment does not have an outdoor grill so I do my grilling in a grill pan. Works just fine, but this goes much more quickly on a grill with generous cooking surface. I have to do mine in several batches.

Do Ahead I would happily make this two days before serving. Store, well-covered in refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature and re-toss before serving.

2 pounds assorted sweet and mildly hot peppers – 2-3 times sweet than hot
2 pounds assorted small eggplant
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Combine garlic and olive oil in large bowl. Mix well.
2. For eggplant, remove stem end and discard. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Down length of each half, cut deep slits into flesh about 1/2-inch apart taking care not to cut all the way through. These slits allow oil to penetrate without drenching eggplant in oil, helps steam escape during grilling and generally facilitates cooking.
3. For the peppers, remove the stem and top and discard. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove all seeds and trim away membrane. Take care in handling hot peppers not to touch soft membranes like your lips and eyes or you will cause burning. Wash hands well after handling hot peppers.
4. Prepare eggplant for grilling. You can’t just toss eggplant into garlic oil. Eggplant acts as a sponge and that’s not good. One eggplant could absorb most of this oil. Instead, place your fingers into garlic and oil mixture. Generously rub and coat each eggplant. Continue with all eggplant. Eggplant should have modest patina of oil.
5. Prepare peppers for grilling. Unlike eggplant, peppers do not absorb oil. Combine what’s left of garlic oil with peppers and toss well.
6. Preheat grill to moderate.
7. To grill peppers, start peppers skin side down. Cook until scorch marks are formed — three to five minutes. Turn peppers and continue cooking until peppers become very limp. Transfer to bowl and stack. Stacked peppers will continue to cook from their own internal heat and you want this to happen. Allow peppers to cool.
IMG_4738

8. To grill eggplant, start flesh side down and cook until well scorched and marked — about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn so skin side is down. Continue cooking. You will see moisture within slits bubble and steam and eggplant will swell as internal moisture turns to steam. Oil will also seep into eggplant through slits. Skin protects eggplant through this process. Continue cooking until eggplant are limp and very pliable. Undercooked eggplant is not a good thing. Set aside to cool.

IMG_4739

Here I use my Grill Press to facilitate “marking” by putting downward pressure on eggplant. A Grill Press is a recommended but not essential list of kitchen equipment. You will get my full recommendations in our upcoming book.

IMG_4741

Eggplant are well marked and spend a while “on their backs” as they cook fully through. Look for the sizzling in the slits as a sign that heat has deeply penetrated eggplant.

9. Cutting peppers and eggplant. There are two approaches to this – big pieces or more fork-friendly pieces. If you are using small eggplant, these look better as they are without cutting them up. Depending on size of peppers, you may have to cut some into somewhat smaller peppers. This approach assumes your guests have a knife and a stable place to cut the peppers and eggplant on their plate. Neither are easy to cut with a fork as each has a skin. Alternatively, cut peppers into generous, but not too long strips. Cut eggplant into large chunks, but not so large that your guest could not fit it into their mouth.
IMG_4742

Eggplant cut into manageable pieces.

10. Toss together eggplant and peppers in bowl. Add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and toss again. In addition to flavoring the dish, the acid from lemon juice or pepper serves to cut the richness of oil. To serve, spread onto low platter taking care to have a nice mix of peppers running throughout.

IMG_4744

Looks pretty good!

Yield A pound of eggplant and a half pound of peppers will serve 6-8 depending on what else is on the menu.

Yellow & Green Bean Salad

This very simple salad is both colorful and has a distinctive flavor that results from being dressed in lime juice and a touch of sesame oil. With this salad I cut beans into half-inch lengths — an unexpected look for what is typically a salad of long beans — and much more fork friendly.

Do ahead Beans may be cooked up to a day ahead but best not to dress salad until ready to serve.

1/2 pound yellow beans
1/2 pound green beans
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, about half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional

1. Snap stem end of yellow and green beans. Line up beans and cut into 1/2-inch lengths.
2. Bring a generous amount of generously salted water to a full boil. Add beans and return to boil. How long to cook depends on tenderness of beans. Young and tender beans will cook in 4 to 5 minutes with more mature beans taking longer. The best thing to do is taste as you cook until beans are tender, but still al dente. Once beans are cooked to your liking, drain and immediately run under cold water to stop cooking and set color.
3. In a bowl, combine beans and lime juice and toss. Add olive oil, toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper. Top with optional toasted sesame seeds.

Yield 1 pound of mixed beans will serve 4 – 6, depending on what else you are serving.
IMG_4736
To toast optional sesame seeds
While you can toast seeds and nuts in the oven, I find the quickest way to do a small batch is in a small fry pan over medium heat.
IMG_4734
Place seeds in cold fry pan over moderate heat. Shake occasionally. Once seeds begin to tan, shake frequently until they reach a deep tan. Be careful at the end to not let seeds go to far.

IMG_4735

Turn seeds out on to a plate to stop cooking.

Tomorrow: Lemonade Alternative: Lime Rickey

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My Handmade Gazpacho for a Crowd

Labor Day is the ideal day to make this tomato-ful summer classic. Farm stands and backyard gardens are bursting with red, ripe tomatoes and for this soup, the riper the better including those “over-ripes” on the farm stand’s “discount” shelf.

There are easier ways to make gazpacho if you are in a hurry. Same list of ingredients, but skip the peeling of the tomatoes. Cut vegetables into “food processor friendly sizes” and pulse — one vegetable at a time — to make a coarse to fine chop. Then combine all the ingredients. I’m not in so much of a rush. My preference is a “handmade” gazpacho in which I chop all of the vegetables by hand. I have more control of the sizes of the vegetables and I’m pretty particular about my vegetable sizes.

My Handmade Gazpacho for a Crowd

The optional jalapeno is quite mild and if you really would like a kick to your gazpacho, double the jalapeno or add some hot sauce to taste. This recipe will yield about 4 quarts of a thick gazpacho — plenty for 10-12 guests. Feel free to halve the recipe. Since I plan to use cilantro in my upcoming couscous and corn salad, I opted to use basil — though cilantro is my prefernce with this soup.

Do ahead Gazpacho is actually best made a day or two ahead as the flavors blend. You could make it up to four days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.

3 1/2 pounds excellent ripe tomatoes, small dice
Preferably peeled and seeded – see yesterday’s blog
3 medium sweet peppers, ideally green and at least one other color, small cubes
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes (see below)
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 medium jalapeno, stem, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced*
1 bunch scallions–green and all, finely diced
4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
6 cups tomato juice
3/4 cup good quality red wine or sherry vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons chopped basil or cilantro, optional

Optional croutons
4 cups small bread cubes–use a good quality country-style bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Once all of the vegetable are chopped, combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Taste for vinegar. The gazpacho should have a definite edge of vinegar without tasting sour.

Yields 4 quarts Serves 8-10

A quick lesson in cutting small cubes with photo below:

1. Cut whatever vegetable you are using into long, uniform stripes. If it’s peppers and you are really compulsive you can trim the ends and cube them separately, but that level of compulsiveness is not recommended.

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2. Line up the strips and cut across into small cubes.

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If the cubes seem too large, you can dice them–not as perfectly cubed, but perfectly fine.

Optional croutons
1. Allow bread cubes to dry out at least overnight. The drying prevents bread from absorbing too much oil.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place dried cubes in bowl. Pour oil down and around edge of bowl and toss croutons to distribute oil. Transfer oiled cubes to rimmed baking sheet. Bake on middle shelf of oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool. Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt and toss.

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Gazpacho with optional croutons and a few torn leaves for garnish.

Pass croutons on the side in a bowl with a soup spoon for your guests to add to their soup.

Here’s the rest of your do ahead Labor Day recipes:

Thursday –Couscous & Corn Salad
Friday – Green & Yellow Bean Salad
Saturday – Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers
Sunday – A Lemonade Alternative: Lime Rickey

This week’s blog is filled with great recipes to share with friends and family. It’s a good time to suggest they subscribe to the blog to save you the trouble of constantly emailing recipes. In the spirit of Labor Day — less labor for you!

We are about four weeks from having books in hand and starting to ship. If you buy your book(s) now, you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Steve

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Lesson: Peeling & Seeding Tomatoes

This week’s posts are all about getting ready for Labor Day by planning and doing ahead. Today’s lesson on peeling tomatoes will come in handy for tomorrow’s Gazpacho recipe.

A tomato’s tough skin is purely utilitarian — handy for protecting it while growing and for travel, but its skin does nothing for a tomato’s flavor. And the texture of the skin is not altogether pleasant. Likewise seeds. Seeds do nothing for the tomato…except, of course, if you plan on using them to grow more tomatoes. From a culinary perspective, peeling and seeding tomatoes is not required, but strongly suggested.

To Peel and Seed Tomatoes

1. Bring a pot of water to an active boil. You do not need a large pot — just large enough to hold 2-3 tomatoes with enough water to cover.

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2. Lightly score tomatoes at the blossom end — that is, opposite the core end — with a shallow and small “x.”

3. Using tongs or slotted spoon, lightly drop tomatoes into water for about 10 seconds taking care not to splash boiling water. Remove tomatoes and immediately run under cold water or immerse into a large bowl filled with ice and water. Your goal is to loosen the skin without cooking the flesh of the tomato. It happens quickly. If the skin is not loose, you can repeat for a few seconds. Repeat until all tomatoes are done.
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4. With a sharp paring knife, remove core. Peel skin from tomatoes.

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5. Slice tomatoes in half.

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6. Do this over a bowl: Hold tomato half in one hand and with the index finger of your other hand, poke watery sack containing seeds. Poke until all (most?) seeds and tomato water is removed leaving just the flesh.

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7. Using a fine strainer over another bowl, strain out the seeds and discard. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press out water. You now have wonderful tomato flesh with seeds removed plus tomato water.

If what you are are making needs a flavorful tomato liquid — like gazpacho or other tomato-based soup, save and use the tomato water. If you were just using the tomatoes to dice for a salad or guacamole, then you can discard the tomato water or save for another use — yet to be determined.

Here’s the rest of your do ahead Labor Day recipes:

Wednesday — My Handmade Gazpacho for a Crowd
Thursday –Couscous & Corn Salad
Friday – Green & Yellow Bean Salad
Saturday – Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers
Sunday – A Lemonade Alternative: Lime Rickey

This week’s blog will be filled with great recipes to share with friends and family. It’s a good time to suggest they subscribe to the blog to save you the trouble of constantly emailing recipes. In the spirit of Labor Day — less labor for you!

We are about four weeks from having books in hand and starting to ship. If you buy your book(s) now, you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Steve

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Plan to Entertain: Labor Day

Picture 1Labor Day is one week away. If you start your Plan to Entertain for Labor Day today and spread out your tasks, you’ll be sure to achieve our goal for you every single time you entertain at home: One relaxed hour before guests arrive.

Labor Day is the ideal holiday for doing just about everything in advance because you have both Saturday and Sunday to prepare. On Labor Day — a day designed to pay homage to “the laborer” — that would be you? — and provide a labor-less day, your Labor Day should be fairly labor-less.

At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining includes suggested menus for most holidays and occasions. The menus are “built” from recipes featured in the book and/or on our website.  Part 1 — Plan to Entertain — provides a handy step-by-step guide and includes a series of planning worksheets . You will be able to easily print recipes and worksheets from At Home Online. I doesn’t matter if you follow the guide and use the worksheets as long as you adhere to the spirit that planning is the key to excellent and relaxed entertaining.

Here’s my menu for next year from At Home by Steve Poses:

Labor Day Backyard Barbecue
3XL (alcoholic lemonade)
Cheddar-Jalapeno Crisps
Tex-Mex Chopped Salad
Stuffed Beef Burgers
Sweet & Sour Slaw
Three-Layered Brownies

This Labor Day
The plan for the blog this week is to provide you with a series of do ahead, room temperature recipes that are guaranteed to make your Labor Day delicious. Just add the burgers, the beer and assign out the dessert. Any of these would make a wonderful “contribution” to someone else’s Labor Day.

Tuesday — Lesson: Peeling Tomatoes
Wednesday — My Handmade Gazpacho for a Crowd
Thursday –Couscous & Corn Salad
Friday – Green & Yellow Bean Salad
Saturday – Grilled Eggplant & Assorted Sweet & Hot Peppers
Sunday – A Lemonade Alternative: Lime Rickey

So, this week’s blog will be filled with great recipes to share with friends and family. It’s a good time to suggest they subscribe to the blog to save you the trouble of constantly emailing recipes. In the spirit of Labor Day — less labor for you!

We are about four weeks from having books in hand and starting to ship. If you buy your book(s) now, you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Steve

Picture 3

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